Tracey Ullman Takes on New York

Tracey Ullman Takes on New York is an HBO television special starring Tracey Ullman. The show was Ullman's first project for network; it led to the creation of the sketch comedy series Tracey Takes On...

Tracey Ullman Takes on New York
Written by
Directed byDon Scardino
Country of originUnited States
Executive producerAllan McKeown
ProducerDavid Wimbury
CinematographyConstantine Makris
EditorMichael Hunt
Running time50 minutes
Production companies
  • Witzend Productions
  • Carlton Select
  • SelecTV
Original release
ReleaseOctober 9, 1993 (1993-10-09)



The Johnsons


Visiting Wisconsin couple Penny and Gordon Johnson get separated in the Big Apple. After actress Linda Granger is hit by a bus, Penny takes over her role in Finian's Rainbow playing on Broadway.

Family Reunion


Fashion magazine editor, Janie Pillsworth is reunited with the parents she disowned thanks to a colleague who is vying for her job.

The Rosenthal Affair


Harry and Fern Rosenthal welcome their daughter's future in-laws to the city. Fern becomes jealous and suspicious of her future son-in-law's mother.





After ending her eponymous Fox show in 1990, Ullman chose to take a break from television and concentrate on motherhood, having given birth to her second child in 1991. That same year, her husband, independent British television producer, Allan McKeown placed a bid a television franchise in the South of England. Along with his bid he included a potential television programming lineup which included a Tracey Ullman special.[1] When his bid was successful, Ullman created the ITV comedy special, Tracey Ullman: A Class Act, which lampooned the British class system.[2] After its success, the American cable network HBO became interested in her doing a special for them. The one caveat was that the show focus on an "American" subject.[3] Ullman chose New York. The special entitled Tracey Ullman Takes on New York was filmed on location in Manhattan over a period of three weeks.[4] Three new characters were created for her to portray, along with Janie Pillsworth, and Janie's mother, Jacqueline; both characters were created and appeared in the previous British Class Act special. Weeks after the special's broadcast, HBO aired A Class Act on November 23, 1993, the special that initially sparked their interest.[5] After the success of both specials, HBO became interested in Ullman doing a "takes on" series. Ullman and her husband agreed, and the pair set up production in Los Angeles in 1995 to begin work on Tracey Takes On....[6]



The special is split into three acts with one bit (Linda Granger being hit by a bus) shown from the point-of-view of two different characters: Penny Johnson and Fern Rosenthal (who causes the accident).



Critical response


The special received generally favorable reviews from critics. Tony Scott of Variety wrote, "Ullman lends depth and insight to all her characterizations ... Ullman and the first-class cast surrounding her, the superior writing and direction give TV comedy a much-needed lift."[7]

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Recipient(s)/Nominee(s) Result Ref(s)
1994 American Comedy Awards Funniest Female Performer in a TV Special (Leading or Supporting) Network, Cable or Syndication Tracey Ullman Won [8]
CableACE Awards Performance in a Comedy Special Tracey Ullman Won [9]
Writing an Entertainment Special Dick Clement, Marc Flanagan, Ian La Frenais, Stephen Nathan, Tony Sheehan Nominated [9]
Directing a Comedy Special Don Scardino Nominated [9]
Directors Guild of America Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Musical/Variety Don Scardino Nominated [10]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for a Variety or Music Program Jane Ruhm Won [11]
Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Tracey Ullman Won [11]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing in a Variety or Music Program Don Scardino Nominated [11]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Editing for a Miniseries or a Special - Multi-Camera Production Michael Hunt Nominated [11]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Miniseries or a Special Sally Sutton (Ms. Ullman's makeup), Bari Dreiband-Burman (makeup effects design), Thomas R. Burman (makeup effects design) Nominated [11]
Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program Dick Clement, Marc Flanagan, Ian La Frenais, Stephen Nathan, Tony Sheehan Nominated [11]
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special Allan McKeown (executive producer), Marc Flanagan (supervising producer), David Wimbury (producer), John H. Starke (line producer) Nominated [11]
1995 Writers Guild of America Variety - Musical, Award, Tribute, Special Event Tony Sheehan, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Stephen Nathan, Marc Flanagan Won [12]

Home media


The special acts as a bonus feature on the DVD set Tracey Takes On... Complete Season 1.[13] It became available on Hulu in the United States in 2012.


  1. ^ Ullman 1998, p. xi
  2. ^ Butler, Robert (3 January 1993). "Television / How to Get Away From the Class System, or Not: Tracey Ullman is Big in America and Back in Britain. Robert Butler Met Her". The Independent. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  3. ^ Ullman 1998, p. xiii
  4. ^ Ullman 1998, p. xiv
  5. ^ O'Connor, John J. (23 November 1993). "Review/Television; Two Antic Evenings Of Comedy and Tributes". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  6. ^ Ullman 1998, p. xv
  7. ^ Scott, Tony (11 October 1993). "Tracey Ullman Takes on New York Hbo, Sat. Oct. 9, 10 p.m." Variety. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Comedy Awards List Top Laughers". Variety. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b c "HBO Takes Bulk of Prizes at the CableACE Awards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  10. ^ Cox, Dan (January 31, 1994). "'NYPD' scores DGA hat trick". Variety. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "Tracey Ullman - Takes On New York". Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  12. ^ "'Four Weddings,' 'Forrest Gump' Screenplays Honored". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  13. ^ Miller III, Randy (26 December 2005). "Tracey Takes On: The Complete First Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 27 June 2019.